Don’t you just love it when you click with some people instantly? That’s what happened when I met Josephine and Christophe* from Le Tres Bon Restaurant in Bungendore.
Josephine kindly picked me up from the Crowne Plaza in Canberra and drove me to their restaurant for the cooking class. In the 45 minutes it took to get there, we talked with excited pace (read: yabbering!) about life, the universe and everything – and had so much in common! It was a very good indication of the enjoyment to come.
Christophe is of French heritage and Josephine is of Italian - two countries that are fiercely passionate about the incredible fungus that is truffles (or, tuber melanosporum, for you science-y types). It was wonderful to hear them both speak with such love for these ugly little specimens who fetch such a high price for their pungent flavour and aroma.
*Apologies for the blurry shot of Christophe, his most excellent French gesturing while talking meant that it was difficult to get anything other than ‘action’ shots of him :) It’s hard to see in this photo but his apron says ‘London, Paris, Bungendore, New York’ (LOL, at Bungendore).
Whoever says “truffles” utters a great word which arouses erotic and gastronomic memories. The noble tuber is not only considered delicious to taste, but is also believed to foster powers the exercise of which is extremely pleasurable”.
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste, 1825 (yes, 1825!).
The class begins with Christophe sending around a very ripe truffle for everyone to smell and touch. He urges us to shout out descriptive words about the way it smells and one woman immediately pipes up with ‘Oooh, it’s so orgasmic!’ to a sea of laughter and nodding. This is definitely a crowd that appreciates truffles.
Other notable descriptions of the smell were ‘beetroot’, ‘petrol’ and ‘poo’ and I found it fascinating that humans can have such varying nose-palates (is that a real term?) or smelling capabilities. Indeed it is a very difficult smell to describe and the best I can offer is ‘earthy’ with the taste being ‘nutty’.
Christophe agrees with the lady who said they are orgasmic. He tells us about poor truffle hunters in Europe who have lost whole fingers trying to pry truffles out of their hunting pigs mouths. You see, the smell of truffles to female pigs is a strong male pig pheromone and it drives them wild to eat (sorry, is that too much info? Ha!). These days dogs are used to hunt for truffles, but more on that tomorrow.
Surprisingly, the class was huge with 28 keen participants, however it was very hands on with tables set up in groups of four. We were all salivating to hear what was on the menu for the day, so without further adieu, Christophe lets us know that we will be cooking:
1. Truffled home-made tagliatelle
2. Truffled snow eggs.
Yum and yum. Let’s get started.
We learn a little trick. Place truffles into a container with eggs and the smell and taste will permeate the eggs due to the porous nature of the egg shell. He proudly shows us his stash that we’ll be using for the creme anglaise to go with the truffled snow eggs.
But first, we get started on making the pasta. Here are some of the class mates in my ‘team’ kneading the dough which is just a simple mixture of flour, eggs, salt and olive oil.
I ask Christophe if it’s important to use fine 00 flour, but he says it doesn’t matter. Everyone in the class is amazed how quick and easy it is to do and vows to make more at home. I find this always happens when I attend cooking classes and I never get sick of seeing people who don’t usually cook get inspired – when their eyes light up with the realisation that cooking well is so achievable. Love it!
While the pasta is resting, Christophe shows us how to make truffle butter and thinly slice whole truffles with a special mandolin into perfect slices. Then we roll out our pasta and cut it up before using a neat trick with the knife to separate it perfectly into strands to dry. I’m not going to show this, you’ll have to go to the class to find out!
While our pasta dries on the bench we watch Christophe give a demonstration of how to whisk a batch of egg whites by hand (he did it in like 5 mins, robot arm!) and then carefully poach the mixture in water to form the snow eggs.
Luckily, we didn’t have to do this ourselves. His lovely chefs cooked and plated up dessert while we plated ourselves up our pasta.
Off we headed to the dining room to get stuck into our main course….
Voila! Freshly made tagliatelle with truffled cream sauce and truffle butter. My, oh my, orgasmic!
Then for dessert, truffled snow eggs with truffled creme anglaise and caramel. Wow! The texture of these is absolutely light as air.
A big thank you to the lovely Josephine and Christophe for hosting me with your warmth and generosity. It is fabulous to see you actively promoting and sharing French cuisine and culture in rural NSW and beyond. If you would like to book a class or dinner at Le Tres Bon, their contact details are below. Be sure to tell them I said hello!
Fig & Cherry participated in the class with compliments of Le Tres Bon Restaurant and Starr Public Relations (thanks Charlie!).
Le Tres Bon Restaurant
Restaurant, Cooking School and Food & Wine Tours to France
40 Malbon St, Bungendore NSW 2621
Ph: (02) 6238 0662